Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia - Diwrnod Rhyngwladol yn erbyn Homoffobia a Thrawsffobia yn Gymraeg and #IDAHO for Twitter users.
You can read my views on equality here - written for the Police & Crime Commissioner election but my views haven’t changed.
Cliciwch yma i ddarllen neges can Huw Lewis, Gweinidog Cydraddoldeb Cymru
Click here to read a message from Huw Lewis, Wales Equality Minister
See the United Nations video here.
Mae’r Sefydliad Bevan wedi paratoi adroddiad ar gyfer Anabledd Cymru yn dangos effaith diwygiadau lles ar bobl anabl yng Nghymru. Mae’r fersiwn Cymraeg ar gael yma: Cap mewn llaw
The Bevan Foundation has prepared a report on behalf of Disability Wales showing the impact of welfare reform on disabled people. The English version is available here: Cap in hand
Beth ddywedodd pleidiau’r glymblaid am hyn cyn yr etholiad diwethaf?
What did the parties of the coalition say about this before the election?
We will reassess all current claimants of Incapacity Benefit. Those found fit for work will be transferred onto Jobseeker’s Allowance. Recipients of Incapacity Benefit who are genuinely disabled will continue to receive the financial support to which they are entitled (p. 15)
We … have made a pledge to … protect … disability living allowance and attendance allowance (p. 42)
Y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol / The Liberal Democrats:
Liberal Democrats want to make the tax and benefits system fair, so that everyone, be they young or old, can afford to get by (p. 13)
Reforming Winter Fuel Payments to extend them to all severely disabled people, paid for by delaying age-related Winter Fuel Payments until people reach 65. (p. 18)
Mae yna hefyd rhestr o’r newididau a’u costau ar tudalen 96 ond does dim byd o gwbl am torri budd-daliadau i’r anabl.
There is also a list of the changes and their costs on page 96 but nothing at all about cutting benefits to the disabled.
Addewidion wedi’u torri unwaith eto
Broken promises yet again
The call for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU has always been a transitional demand. It isn’t what anyone actually wants, it is just a more inclusive way of demanding withdrawal. While withdrawal itself is clearly lunacy, “how can you refuse to let the British people decide” has a ring of truth to it. Of course a further referendum would be needed if a Government was proposing that we withdraw – and indeed there will need to be a referendum if there is a new treaty which hands further powers to Brussels.
But David Cameron’s promise of a referendum during the next Parliament was never anything more than a tactic to relieve the pressure from his backbenchers and from UKIP. He wanted a plausible explanation of why we cannot have a referendum right now and “because we need time to negotiate changes” is the best he could come up with. It is the classic case of “Jam tomorrow”: it allows the Conservatives to appeal at the next General Election to both Eurosecptics and Europhiles rather than making a clear decision.
As is made clear in today’s Guardian, not only does the demand to re-open negotiations on the Lisbon Treaty ignore the real issues being considered elsewhere in the EU, David Cameron hasn’t actually told anyone what it is that he wants to renegotiate:
There is also exasperation in EU capitals that Cameron has declined, as yet, to flesh out what kind of changes he wants or which policy areas he hopes to renegotiate. The puzzlement extends to British officials and business. A delegation from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) was in Brussels on Monday and sounded out the European Commission about what Downing Street wanted because they have not been told. Similar puzzlement surrounds the battery of EU police, justice, and security measures that Britain needs to renegotiate, a policy recently severely criticised by a House of Lords inquiry as damaging the British national interest.
Under the Lisbon treaty Britain has to opt out of more than 130 EU police and justice instruments en bloc and then re-negotiate the bits it wants to retain with other EU governments and with the European Commission.
Senior commission sources say the home secretary, Theresa May, has not contacted Cecilia Malmstrom, one of the commissioners responsible, since last year.
Although the promise of a referendum by 2017 was seen as helpful in uniting the Conservative Party, it is deeply unhelpful to securing economic recovery. It creates uncertainty at a time when we need stability. It will act as a break on investment as companies decide it might be better to wait until the outcome is clear – knowing that Britain may become a bad place in which to site a manufacturing facility for selling to the European market. It is yet another example of the Prime Minister putting party before country.
The real choice for the British people is between a Government focused on achieving jobs and growth, which will use its influence in the EU to push for a Europe-wide focus on jobs and growth or a Government which wishes to leave the EU and retreat into a protectionist backwater. Labour will be offering the former and UKIP will be offering the latter. David Cameron knows that leaving the EU is not in Britain’s interest. As he said in his January speech:
I believe something very deeply. That Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it.
If David Cameron has a different alternative he wants to offer, he needs to write down what he is proposing and put those proposals to the British people at the General Election. If he doesn’t know what he wants, perhaps a spell in opposition might give him an opportunity to work it out.
The Daily Post has highlighted the increase in the use of community resolutions by North Wales Police and concerns that the scheme may be being used inappropriately for violent offences.
I’m a big fan of community resolutions. The justice system can sometimes feel like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut – except that by the time the sledgehammer arrives on the scene everyone has moved on. In contrast to going to court or issuing a police caution, community resolutions require the perpetrator to face up to what they have done soon after they were caught and to make appropriate recompense to the victim. Evidence shows that community resolutions can have much more of an impact in deterring offenders from further crime, as well leaving victims more satisfied that the impact the offence had on them has been recognised and that action has been taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The biggest criticism of policing in North Wales in recent years is that the imposition of top-down targets translated into officers taking perverse decisions which undermined public confidence. The solution to this – and to similar problems in lots of other public services – is to ensure that front line officers are expected to exercise their discretion. “Do the right thing” is the new mantra. Of course there needs to be a clear framework around decision making and clarity about what is right needs to be tested through open debate and discussion.
It would be inappropriate to discuss individual cases in public, but someone needs to look at the detail to understand what is happening and draw out the lessons for improvement. That is exactly what North Wales Police Authority did when concerns were raised over the use of restorative resolutions for violent offences. A small group of members reviewed cases to satisfy themselves that police officers had used their discretion appropriately. A report was then prepared which didn’t go into the detail but which confirmed that the members were satisfied with what they had seen.
The task of holding the police to account has now passed from now abolished Police Authority to Winston Roddick as the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner. He needs to look into the cases rather than simply saying that it would be inappropriate to interfere. Did officers exercise their discretion appropriately in all cases? If he takes the view that it was not, he should ask the Chief Constable to consider what action is needed. This could include providing further guidance to officers and/or further safeguards being put in place to check case files before decisions are finalised in particular types of case. The Chief Constable might disagree and argue that the decisions made were correct or that the small number of cases where decisions were inappropriate are best dealt with through guidance to the officers concerned rather than by making the system as a whole more bureaucratic.
Either way, we should know the outcome of the review and that those responsible for police governance have their eye on the ball. This will help to build public confidence – a statement that it is not for the Commissioner to interfere instead leaves the impression that the wrong decisions are being made and nothing is being done about it.
As Chief Executive of North Wales Police Authority I did some serious thinking about the role of Commissioner and how the Government’s flawed framework could be made to work by someone who was determined to act with integrity and wanted to be inclusive. I wrote a paper on the subject which you can read here:
When I consulted several people on drafts of the paper I was met with the same question: “So are you going to stand?” In truth I hadn’t decided to stand when I started writing the paper but the process of writing it convinced me I had something to offer. That was not to be and so now I am looking for another way to serve, but the advice remains very relevant to those who were elected last November. If you live in North Wales and you are interested in getting involved, you might like to apply for Deputy Commissioner – closing date 30 May 2013.
Tîm fawr allan heddiw yn atgoffa trigolion Ynys Môn am yr etholiad fory a’u hannog i bleidleisio Llafur.
Large team out on Ynys Môn today reminding residents about the election and encouraging them to vote Labour.
Appointing a Youth Commissioner compounds the flaws in having elected Police and Crime Commissioners
Rachel Rogers has written here of the duty of care the relevant PCC should have shown to a seventeen year old thrust into the limelight for the gutter press to feed on. David Cameron once said everyone is entitled to a private life before they enter politics, but social media means history can come back and haunt someone more easily than when he was a young person. There is a lesson to be learnt for anyone involved in appointing to a high profile post, or thinking of applying for such a post: check the digital footprint. Even if past indiscretions are not a reason not to appoint, there is no point leaving them hanging around for someone to find later.
But there is a broader point raised which is why would it make sense to ask a seventeen year old to take on a full time salaried role as Youth Commissioner?
It is a weird version of democracy that involves appointing a single person to represent all views and make decisions. As I have said before, the position of Police & Crime Commissioner is unique in this country. Ministers failed to ensure there were adequate checks and balances. They ignored the arguments put forward in parliament and overturned Lords amendments. The Lib Dems price? Not the checks and balances promised in the coalition agreement, but moving the election to November.
My view of democracy is much wider than ensuring that people have a right to vote. It is about ensuring that they are able to be involved in decisions which affect them – by having information and an opportunity to give their views. In my time working for local authorities and for the police authority, it was rare for there to be a vote. Even where there were strong opposing views, it was usually possible to find a compromise that everyone could live with.
Of course that isn’t always the case and sometimes there are genuine differences of opinion and a committee voting is the only sensible way of resolving the disagreement.
But a system of governance which means that one person can decide what will happen before they have even heard what anyone else thinks is a bad system. In my election campaign last year, I made no secret of the fact that I disagreed with the system and would not behave in the way that the law allowed, but would instead operate with the utmost integrity and seek consensus on my decisions.
I intended to do this by ensuring that I was regularly engaging with people across North Wales and in particular with the full range of stakeholders, including young people. I can see that Commissioners who have decided to appoint a Young Commissioner are doing so because they think it will be a mechanism for engaging – but I think it is a very weak one compared to alternatives already in place.
In Wales, we have a Children and Young People’s Assembly – Funky Dragon. This is drawn from Youth Forums in each of the 22 counties in Wales. They vary of course in terms of the resources and attention given by the council and the number of young people involved. But it is a really good starting point for engaging with a cross-section of young people and to find out what they think. The Police Authority had been involved in a previous event with young people in Denbighshire and Conwy and after I became a candidate I met some of the representatives and was looking forward to working with them.
Engaging with representatives in each of the six counties would make far more sense than expecting one person to represent all of those views and distil them for the benefit of the Commissioner. It would also give a more authentic voice: however good they are, someone who works full time as Youth Commissioner is no longer going to be representative of young people as a whole.
Whether it is engaging with young people or with the wider population, it is important for Police & Crime Commissioners to work with other agencies. It shouldn’t be necessary for the member of the public to negotiate which agency is responsible for a particular issue – if the agencies consult together they can then each take away the actions which are their responsibility and ensure they are completed.
But all of this once again reinforces the advantages of a system where a group of people are given overall responsibility for police governance: the key issues of hiring and firing a Chief Constable, setting the priorities and budget and holding the Chief Constable to account for delivering on them.
It is important to remember that the low turnout in November wasn’t simply apathy. The errors in organising this election have been catalogued by the Electoral Reform Society and by the Electoral Commission. The ERS survey found that 45% of people who did not vote said they “didn’t have enough information about the candidates to make a decision”. A further 19% of voters said they didn’t participate because they “don’t agree with electing police officials in this way”. That is more than the percentage of the population who actually voted.
Those people who were elected as Commissioners have a job to do. Some of them are excellent and are using the opportunity to make the connections with other agencies, engage with local people and make their communities safe. Others appear happy to take the money and let the system run itself. Before their terms of office come to an end in 2016, we really need to have a more sensible system in place.
BBC/S4C Newyddion ar y gwrthdystiad yn Wrecsam heddiw / coverage of the protest in Wrexham today
Be mae’r Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol (Lib Dems) a’r Torïaid yn deud yw pwrpas y polisi yma ydy gwneud yn siŵr bod mwy o dai fforddiadwy ar gael. Ond does ‘na ddim tai ar gael i bobl sy’n cael eu heffeithio symud i. Syniad gwell byddai adeiladu mwy o dai. Buasai hynny yn helpu’r economi, cael mwy o bobl mewn swyddi, codi arian i’r llywodraeth trwy drethi a gostwng budd-daliadau. Mae ‘na siawns iddyn nhw newid cwrs yn y Gyllideb wythnos nesa – gobeithio bydden yn sylwi ar y gwrthdystiadau.
Good to see the Daily Post have covered the protest in Wrexham (this Saturday in Queen’s Square from 1pm) – and a good quote from the organisers explaining why this bedroom tax is wrong. The changes announced yesterday are welcome but don’t go far enough. If someone has a good reason why they can’t live somewhere smaller or there isn’t somewhere smaller and cheaper available for them to move to, it is wrong for their benefit to be deducted.
Join the campaign on Facebook here.
Yesterday’s report from the Office of Fair Trading was no surprise to those who have looked into this issue – in particular Stella Creasy. Read Stella’s article for the Guardian commenting on the issue here. I was delighted to have Stella’s support in my campaign for Police & Crime Commissioner last autumn. After meeting with Women’s Groups from across North Wales to explore what more can be done to end violence against women, Stella, Chris Ruane MP and I met with North Wales Credit Union. Credit Unions offer a real alternative to the loan sharks and deserve our support.
When the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats set out their coalition agreement, tackling bankers’ bonuses got an explicit mention:
We will bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector; in developing these proposals, we will ensure they are effective in reducing risk.
Three years and a lot of hand-wringing later, they have little to show for these bold words. Labour in government took action, introducing a tax on bonuses in addition to a new 50p tax rate on earnings over £150,000. The tax on bonuses has been dropped and the top-rate reduced. The problem apparently is that banking is an international market so we can’t be too firm with the bankers or they’ll all relocate to Frankfurt.
Except that we’re members of the European Union and therefore with a bit of will-power, something can be done. Faced with a fairly straightforward proposal to limit bonuses to a maximum of a year’s salary or double that if explicitly backed by shareholders, the Chancellor is squealing in horror – despite the proposal having been backed by Tory MEPs at an earlier stage. Of course that may have been before the Tories’ financial backers gave their views…
This proposal doesn’t undermine the competitiveness of the City of London: it doesn’t even curb excessive pay. It just changes the balance in remuneration to move away from excessive risk taking.
Let’s be clear: the reason pay in the financial services sector is so much higher than other sectors is not because bankers are better than the rest of us. Thomas Jefferson once said that “banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies” but it is not because banking is more dangerous or more complex than other professions.
Ten years ago, I spent an afternoon with senior managers at UBS. It was while I was working for Hackney Council and the session had been organised to help us exchange ideas and working practices. It was a useful session and I was left with a positive impression of them. But I think they learned more than we did. What we were trying to achieve was so much more complex that what they were doing. Risk management for them was one dimensional: will I make or lose money? Yes they needed to think about long term versus short term and we now know that not enough attention was paid to system-wide risks. But it is a world apart from the dilemmas which were facing Hackney Council officers every day. UBS put a lot of effort into corporate social responsibility programmes and encouraging their staff to undertake voluntary work in the community and that’s got to be a good thing. But “putting something back into the community” was much less of a concern for us, because that’s what our workforce were doing every day.
The reason top bankers are paid so much more than other professionals is because senior bankers determine their own pay.
In a free society, there will always be significant differentials in wealth and income. There are wildly different views on how much variation is fair – but what is beyond doubt is that the gap has widened massively. As the High Pay Centre set out here, the share of national income going to the top 1 per cent of the income distribution has more than doubled since 1979 to 14.5 per cent from 6 per cent.
As a society, we need to consider whether this is right. Certainly it is impossible to justify the forthcoming £2.7 billion tax break that the Government is giving this income group next month. Even if you didn’t give two hoots for fairness, it wouldn’t make economic sense. If you want to get the economy moving, a tax break for the low paid would be much more effective, because they are much more likely to spend the money in the local economy.
The banking crisis exposed the fact that the financial services sector relies on government backing to enable it to make its vast profits – so society in turn has a right to impose some tough rules on the sector.
There is a recurring theme in the attitude of Government Ministers, which is to blame foreigners. It plays well with the Tory faithful and the fact that George Osborne’s approach to economics has decisively failed, means they’re getting quite jittery. It is almost as though the reason the Tories are against is because this is an EU proposal! The European Convention on Human Rights is a frequent target, despite the fact that it was drafted by British lawyers. Earlier this week, Britain’s most senior judge warned that on the particular issue which is exercising Theresa May and Chris Grayling, withdrawing from the Court wouldn’t be enough – we would need to leave the United Nations as well.
When the IMF told the Government its economic strategy was making things worse, I wondered whether David Cameron was going to propose a referendum on leaving the world. I didn’t realise they were already thinking in that direction. David Cameron using foreign leaders as a punchbag to impress his backbenchers always risked leaving him isolated. Small wonder George Osborne finds himself without any friends at the conference table so soon afterwards.
Doesn’t it make you angry that the banks have been allowed to ride roughshod over our economy, and are still handing out bonuses by the bucket load? Don’t settle for low politics and broken promises: be more demanding.
That’s what the Liberal Democrat manifesto said in 2010. In politics as well as life, it is important to be honest about what you will do and then to deliver what you promised. Apologising for staying a load of stuff that you thought sounded good in the campaign but didn’t really intend to implement in government just won’t wash. That’s why less than half of those who voted Lib Dem at the last election intend to do so at the next.